We are a voluntary, not-for-profit community chorus incorporated under the laws of Manitoba to provide an opportunity for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit (LGBTQ2*) and their friends to sing together.
The primary purpose of the organization is to promote musical excellence in performance by:
- Creating and maintaining a mixed chorus that presents public performances in the Winnipeg area;
- Providing the chorus with competent, professional artistic leadership;
- Being a visible, respected member of the Manitoba arts community. While striving to achieve this purpose, the organization seeks to: provide social and fellowship experiences to enrich the lives of its members; promote education and cultural enrichment of its members and audiences; foster spirit and pride in the LGBTQ2 community; and present a positive image of the LGBTQ2 community to the general public by being identified as an organization of individuals who are making a contribution to the entire community through musical performance.
Creating a More Accepting Society through the Power of Music
The Rainbow Harmony Project works to create a more tolerant society by accessing a broad spectrum of society through the quality of our performances, by breaking down the foundations of homophobia and transphobia through our diversity and visibility, and by expressing the wants, desires and stories of our lives through the unique power of music.
This award-winning, non-auditioned chorus has performed in every province from British Columbia to Quebec and south to Denver.
The Rainbow Harmony Project gains access to a broad spectrum of society through the quality of our performances. The talented direction, arrangers, singers, instrumentalists and production staff provide the credibility to open doors to our performance opportunities. We access groundbreaking performances, such as “Sharing Our Stories”, a concert performed for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights Content Advisory Committee in January, 2010 during their cross-country consultations, where the power of our music and personal stories visibly moved the Advisory Committee members. We gain access to places of worship from our reputation for high-quality musicianship and the power of our message.
We recognize that life is relatively good for LGBTQ2 in large urban enclaves. We are out, and our stories are understood by much of the community. But the urbanization of the LGBTQ2 community is not the long-term solution for the elimination of homophobia and transphobia. We reach out to suburban religious institutions, and take our messages beyond Winnipeg to support isolated LGBTQ2 individuals and the community institutions that support them.
The Rainbow Harmony Project uses this community access to break down the foundation of homophobia and transphobia. These phobia are defined as an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality, homosexual men, lesbians and transgender persons and their cultures. Like other forms of prejudice, homophobia and transphobia are a fear of difference, or fear of the unknown. Both are based on ignorance, by lack of exposure, or by over-exposure to stereotypes of the LGBTQ2 community. Adding to the problem, homophobia and transphobia keep many LGBTQ2 people from coming out, due to their lack of identification with stereotypes, or the fear that they will be typecast with those elements, thus perpetuating the problem.
We play an important role in creating visibility to the community by representing a broad and diverse group of LGBTQ2 people. We encourage all LGBTQ2 individuals to come out of the closet so our diversity can be seen and understood by society at large. We encourage our members to live open, accepting and proud lives, and provide them with a safe, secure and accepting Chorus community. In addition, we encourage LGBTQ2 members of our community to increase their visibility by attending performances where they can be safe, celebrate our diversity, and hear our common stories. Through our broad audience reach and community visibility, we eliminate fear; we encourage understanding and create tolerance.
The Rainbow Harmony Project uses the power of music to convey our stories and connect with audience members in a very unique way. It is well known that music connects with individuals on a deep, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and human level. In bypassing their “fear-based anger”, we touch people’s emotions, and provide an opportunity for them to listen, learn, grow and change. By telling our stories through music, we are able to share with our audiences our common stories of the human experience.
Even as society accepts that the LGBTQ2 community exists, and embraces TV shows, movies, open artists, politicians and celebrations, many heterosexuals still perceive our different sexual orientation as separating us from their basic human wants – children, spouse, and legally recognized and supported families. By telling the stories of our lives, the Rainbow Harmony Project helps to create the understanding that these wants are so deep and fundamental that LGBTQ2 individuals were working to realize them long before they were granted legal and community support.
Built on an 18-Year History
Now in its 18th season, the 70-voice ensemble is celebrated for its musicianship, creative programming and community outreach. Under the dynamic leadership of Co-Artistic Directors Johanna Hildebrand and Justin Odwak, the Rainbow Harmony Project sings a wide repertoire ranging from classical to pop, jazzy to folk – often with a “queer” twist but always leaving its audiences uplifted and inspired. We build bridges to all people by providing a positive, affirming image of the LGBTQ2 community. Each year the Chorus offers two concerts, “Many Gifts” in December and a spring concert in May, reaching an audience of approximately 900. In addition, the chorus performs in churches and at community events.
Highlights of the RHP’s performing history include:
- Inaugural concert at Walker Theatre, May 2000 before an audience of 900 with special guests Prairie Pride Chorus (Regina) and Bridge City Chorus (Saskatoon)
- Joint concert with Prairie Pride Chorus, 2001, Dark Hall, University of Regina
- Joint concert with Vancouver Men’s Chorus, 2002, Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, Winnipeg
- Canadian GALA/Unison Festivals: Toronto 2002, Edmonton 1998, Toronto 2002, Vancouver 2006, Winnipeg 2010, Ottawa 2014
- International GALA Festival, Place des Arts, Montreal, 2004, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO, 2012 and 2016
- “Running with Scissors”, a dance/choral music collaboration with Adiseola Akinleye, Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain, 2004
- Joint concert with Bridge City Chorus, Saskatoon, 2005
- Diversity Festival, Manitoba Choral Association, 2005
- ChoralFest Manitoba, 2001-2005
- Three-Time Gold Medalist and winner of Helga Anderson Trophy for outstanding performance by a community choir, Winnipeg Music Festival, 2007, 2008, 2011
- Produced CD for our 10th Anniversary Season
- “Sharing Our Stories”: a concert for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Content Advisory Committee, January 2010
- Performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in "Broadway Rocks" concert, March 2012
- Performed at the Gala Dinner for the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights during the museum opening on September 18, 2014